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Leah Hammett
UWRT 1102-018
Peter Fields
22 November 2016
The Effect of Gender Roles on Society
As children move through childhood and into the years of adolescence, many are exposed
to varying factors that play a role on how the child will develop. These factors influence the
childs attitudes and behaviors specifically relating to gender roles. Gender roles refer to the
behaviors, attitudes, and values pertaining to a particular group (Gender Roles and Impact,
2005). They begin the second a child is born and the gender is revealed. For instance, when a girl
is born the nursery is covered in pink. Unbeknownst to most parents, as subtle as a detail wall
color may be, this sets their child up to follow their predetermined standards; an exact replica of
what society wants them to be. It comes to simple statements such as these that bring up the
argument on how the implications of gender roles on adolescents develop into gender-specific
behaviors and actions that are enforced by society. The real question is, are these behaviors
harmful or beneficial?
Gender roles are often viewed by society in a positive light as a need to help maintain the
running of the labor force, as well as keeping society in a stable condition. Boys are taught from
a young age to be brave, strong, and the provider of the family. They are also taught to conceal
their emotions to promote a masculine self-image of themselves. Whereas women are taught to
keep up the home and child-rearing duties. These gender stereotypes that are portrayed on men
and women prevail to fit them into a mold that society creates in order to ensure that the labor
force stays consistent and functional (Witt, 1997). Many believe this perspective to be

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acceptable, mainly for its way of viewing society as a complex system, a system whose functions
promote solidarity and stability. This perspective is great in the sense that it keeps society
relatively consistent. Individuals do not respond well to change so this perspective assures order
and stability in which tradition and norms can stay the way they always have been.
However comfortable consistency may be, there comes a need for change when these
norms and traditions hinder the individual from the freedom to become who they want to be.
Men tend to go towards professions such as the military, politics, and law enforcement. Whereas
women tend to go towards more family-orientated occupations such as healthcare, social work,
and childcare (Gender and Sociology, 2015). Men and women are placed into certain
occupations due to societys push on gender roles and these occupational roles are examples of
such culture traditions. So why should the public care? Another perspective to consider is that
gender roles are negatively impacting individuals. Studies have shown that men experience
distress and anxiety over the idea that they may be less masculine than the average man. Out of a
survey of 600 men, many admitted to engaging in violence and high-risk sexual activity due to
these self-restraining gender roles (Collingwood, 2015). Both men and women can experience
self-esteem issues due to not being up to par with societys standards. Often an individual can be
subjected to negative treatment due to stepping out of stereotypical roles. Maria do Mar Pereira,
the deputy director for the University of Warwicks Centre for the study of Women and Gender,
conducted a study on the effects of gender roles on children. Through this he stated, this
constant effort to manage ones everyday life in line with gender norms produces significant
anxiety, insecurity, stress and low self-esteem for both boys and girls, and both for popular
young people and those who have lower status in school (Collingwood, 2014). Gender roles
need to seriously be addressed due to their negative factors. Individuals are being hindered from

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developing into their own character and as a result are experiencing symptoms such as anxiety,
irritability, insecurity, and low self-esteem. Gender roles are also extremely prevalent in the
media, too. Over half of the characters in family films are employed, with males dominating the
work force, whereas females are rarely shown working.
Contrary to this argument, another perspective views gender roles as a vital importance to
society and thus should not be abolished. Many feel as if to change the American family would
be changing America in itself because disregarding the typical roles would be detrimental to the
stability of society (Gender Roles in Society, 2015). The typical American family consists of a
husband who brings home the money, and a wife that stays at home to watch over the children. If
it were to be switched around, many feel as if that is not normal. Why cant women be the breadwinners of the family? Why is it that if a woman can financially support her family, that is
looked at as to being abnormal? Its thought that gender inequalities exist as a way to segment
the labor force in order to ensure a stable society. Some believe that women can not take on the
same roles of men, and that certain jobs can only be properly maintained by a man.
Going against societys norms, the proposition of gender roles prevails over the argument
over abolishing it. Gender roles are not needed to ensure stability in society. Society has become
accustomed to these norms and traditions, so much that the thought of changing such measures is
often opposed due to the fear of the unknown. Also, there are more cons associated with gender
roles than pros. As of late, gender roles on children have been more accepted due to the rising
concern of a child misinterpreting their gender and developing their own gender identity. For
example, if a boy were to paint his nails with nail polish, he would be reprimanded and told that
painting nails are only for girls, under most cases. Parents justify this fact by stating that
allowing their boy to do such a thing could lead them into becoming homosexual or confused

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with their gender identity. In this way, gender discrimination and homophobia are profoundly
connected. There is a strict difference between what is considered masculine and what is
considered feminine. Between these two, a hierarchy is established, and anything remotely
feminine gets labeled as to being gay while anything overtly masculine is tomboy or
butch.
Much research has conveyed that gender roles have long-lasting effects that can
ultimately affect the individuals identity. For instance, around the age of two-years-old, children
become fully aware and conscious of the physical differences between boys and girls. Before
they reach the age of three, most children are able to label themselves as to being a boy or girl
(Gender and Sociology, 2015). By imposing gender roles on children, it is essentially
restricting the child from developing their own sense of their gender identity. This can ultimately
change how the child will grow up because they are only abiding to the norms and roles that
society has already conjured up for them.
It is evident that gender roles have an effect on the individual both physically and
mentally. It can hinder the individual from developing into their own unique personality, as well
as it can bring up physical symptoms such as anxiety, depression, and low-self esteem (CulpRessler, 2014). However, there seems to be a gap in achieving such information on gender roles.
A quick google search of the topic results in limited feedback, the majority being from the same
perspective on the matter. Information that is hard to obtain towards gender roles is its origin.
Have you ever stopped to question why these norms have come about and how they deemed to
do so? Gender norms are widely accepted and often unnoticed, which explains why there is a gap
in finding the origin of them altogether. Take for example, the gender role of boys and girls being
regarded towards a specific color, blue and pink. Researching the topic brings up a variety of

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answers. Some take it all the way back to the Egyptians, while others label it as tradition, but
there is never one concrete answer on the matter. Ultimately, there is a gap on finding the reason
on how these norms came to be.
The gap towards finding the origin of gender roles leaves an impact on how broad the
subject is; the subject of gender roles is so broad that you cannot pinpoint an exact reason as to
how they came about, because it changes upon situation and culture. Take in mind, gender roles
vary in each country based off their own traditions and style of living. What we may deem to be
a gender norm in one country, may not even be regarded as one in another. Its hard to locate an
origin for gender roles because these norms are constantly changing; as each generation grows
and evolves, the norms and traditions of their generation are consistently changing as well.
The gap of gender roles as a whole cannot be filled due to its extensive range. Since there
are many norms out there, there cannot be one answer towards them, but instead numerous
answers towards them. Therefore, instead of filling in the gap of gender roles as a whole, the gap
towards specific gender roles can be filled. These gaps should be filled because itll give society
a more concrete understanding of how impactful these certain gender roles are. In order to
effectively fill these gaps, people should be aware of the gender roles first and foremost. As I
stated above, a lot of gender roles are set subconsciously, many do not even realize they are
being put into effect. For example, if a mother only allows her son to play with male specific
toys and does so without thinking, shes not aware of the fact that she is subjecting her son to a
gender role. However, after informing the mother of how impactful this can be to her child, the
mother may be inclined to change her ways. Thus, it is extremely important for society to push
the attention of gender roles. It is a subject that is hardly discussed in schools, I didnt even hear
of the matter until I was well into high school. If the majority of people are well informed on

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gender roles and their impacts, it might change the way they come about. For instance, if a
person is informed on gender roles, they would be consciously aware of it if they were to ever
enforce it, instead of previously being oblivious to it. By being informed, people can make their
own decisions on whether or not these norms are necessary. Likewise, the gap towards their
origin can be filled because it can stop the event from ever occurring.
A solution towards informing the public on gender roles is to educate about these norms
starting earlier. It is largely discussed in subjects like Sociology, but many do not take a
sociology course until well into high school or college. Thus, it would be a great idea for schools
to implement the discussion of gender roles into the curriculum of a younger age, such as 5th
graders in elementary school. Teachers can discuss both the good and bad points towards them,
and how they can be both helpful and detrimental, depending on the norm being presented. As
the children grow up, they and their peers will be informed on the matter, overall changing the
way these norms come about to be.
Regardless, it is common knowledge on all mediums that gender roles are high
expectations of how a person should act, dress, and behave based on sex. The older one gets, the
higher the amount of pressure is involved on gender stereotypes. It is wise of society to start to
recognize these roles as damaging and unhealthy towards the individual, because at the moment,
gender roles are taken lightly and are hardly discussed in the media. The public needs to
demonstrate that there are alternate ways to express oneself, no individual should have to
properly obey a norm already set. Personalities should be expressed, not suppressed, because
diversity is what keeps society functioning.

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References
Boundless. Gender and Sociology. Boundless Psychology. Boundless, 20 Aug. 2015. Retrieved
9 Oct. 2016 from https://www.boundless.com/psychology/textbooks/boundlesspsychology-textbook/gender-and-sexuality-15/gender-414/gender-and-sociology-29612831/
Collingwood, J. (2015, December 12). Violence Linked to Gender Roles. Retrieved October,
2016, from http://psychcentral.com/news/2015/12/12/violence-linked-to-genderroles/96133.html
Culp-Ressler, Tara. "Forcing Kids to Stick to Gender Roles Can Actually Be Harmful to Their
Health." ThinkProgress. N.p., 2014. Web. 12 Oct. 2016.
"Gender Roles in Society." What Are Gender Roles? Study.com, 22 Apr. 2015. Web. 12 Oct.
2016.
"Gender Roles and Impact." Gender Roles and Impact. World Bank, 2005. Web. 12 Oct. 2016.
Witt, Susan D. "Parental influence on children's socialization to gender roles."
Adolescence 32.126 (1997): 253.